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John Rosemond - Parenting Expert

John Rosemond is America's most widely-read parenting authority! He is a best-selling author, columnist, speaker, and family psychologist.

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It's the parenting, not the paddle, that matters

Whiteland, Indiana—April 13, 2006: A fellow who looks to be about my age (58) approaches me before a presentation I'm to give and says he thinks the problem with discipline in schools, or the lack thereof, is that teachers and principals are no longer allowed to paddle children.

"All I can tell you," he says, "is that on the several occasions I got the paddle, it straightened me up quick."

I respectfully disagreed. It couldn't have been the paddle, I pointed out, because I was schooled in the suburbs of Chicago, where even in the 1950s paddling was not allowed. Nonetheless, the schools I attended were not brimming with discipline problems, as they are today. The factor that kept him and me and the rest of our peers in line was the parent, not the paddle. In both his school and mine, children did what teachers told them to do and obeyed the rules (for the most part). The paddle was used in his school, but not mine, but in both cases, if a child caused trouble at school, his parents caused him trouble at home—lots of trouble. My memories of this trouble are far from repressed. They are vivid.

I knew if I got into hot water in school, my mother would know about it by the time I arrived home. So, on my walk home, I'd be rehearsing what I was going to say, the tall tale I was going to tell that would absolve me. Unfortunately, my mother never bought my explanations. More often than not, in fact, she would not even allow me to offer one up.

"You listen to me, John Rosemond," she'd growl, menacingly, while pointing that one ominous finger in my direction, "there will be no ifs, ands, or buts about this, and if you open your mouth in your own defense, you will be in twice as much trouble!"

So, for the third time that day—count 'em: teacher, then principal, then Mom—I'd be scolded and punished, usually by having to spend the rest of the day in my room. My room was elegantly appointed with a bed, chest of drawers, desk, chair, some books, a few toys, and curtains. By no stretch of the imagination was it a self-contained entertainment complex. So, while I was in there, I just sat. Or I read. And I waited. I waited for my stepfather to come home.

My mother gave no credence to the prefix "step." She did not, as Dr. Phil advises, prohibit him from disciplining me. In his house, he was lord and master, and I was a vassal. When he got home, Mom held back nothing, and the next thing I knew, Dad (that is what I called him, at my mother's insistence, and this did not "confuse" me) was in my room looking every bit as menacing as a tornado cloud. In my whole childhood, he spanked me maybe five times, and believe me, I got into trouble more than five times. More often than not, he'd just sit down, stare at me, and ask, "Do we need a talk?" And I'd say, no, we most absolutely do not, because I know what I did, and I have no excuses, and I'm sorry, and I'll apologize to the teacher tomorrow, and I'll even wash her car after school. And he'd tell me that I had to go to bed immediately, without supper, and that was that, to my everlasting relief. And it would be a long time before I caused trouble again.

If today's parents did not make excuses for their children and toss the hot potato back at their kids' teachers, schools would still be well-disciplined places.

Why, a bit of parent support might even go a long way toward abating the attention deficit disorder epidemic.

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